Photo courtesy of Tesco

Strange-looking celeriac becoming huge hit in kitchens, UK restaurants

Produce Business report

That odd, gnarly-looking vegetable that almost doesn’t look edible is catching the eyes of foodies and chefs across the UK.

Celeriac, which is a close relative to celery but without its look or its flavour – both sweet and nutty to the palette – is seeing unprecedented demand in supermarkets such as Tesco. In fact, in the past five years, sales have soared more than 40 percent.

So what is exactly is it? This versatile root vegetable can be served as a steak or as a complement to chicken or fish, diced up to make cole slaw or pureed to make soups. Clever cooks have even managed to put it into muffins or turned it into a mash.

“We’ve always had faith in the vegetable because we love the taste but never really expected it to take off as much as it has done in the last few years,” said Jack Buck Farms Managing Director Julian Perowne, which helps supply Tesco. “Celeriac is proof that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Don’t judge it be its rough, knobbly surface and odd shape – it’s incredibly good for you and is a great alternative to potato.”

Tesco celeriac buyer Emily Hampson agreed.

“In the past, celeriac sales have been held back because the vegetable isn’t particularly visually appealing but now people are discovering how delicious it tastes, how versatile it is in both hot and cold dishes and how nutritious it is,” she said.

Jack Buck Farms in Lincolnshire, which supplies the UK with 90% of celeriac, is certainly noticing. They say they are planting 50% more of the wonky vegetable than they did in 2018. In business for more than 60 years, the farm grows potatoes and courgettes but has dabbled in chard and fennel as well. It began growing celeriac more than 35 years ago, and now that crop is up to 450 acres per year.

But what’s kept celeriac going has been the steady push by restaurateurs and chefs to feature it on their menus. Yotam Ottolenghi, Jamie Oliver and Mary Berry have found a way to bring celeriac, harvested from August to November and then stored until July, to the fore. Vegan, plant-based and vegetarian trends have furthered its inclusion.

“The plant-based food revolution has created a great era of culinary experimentation and as a result once niche British-grown vegetables such as oyster mushrooms and celeriac are now taking centre stage in wonderful tasting recipes,” said Hampson, whose supermarkets sell one million pieces of the veg annually.



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